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The Holy Spirit - a person or a force?

Discussion in 'Orthodox Christian DIR' started by Kristoffer, May 14, 2015.

  1. Kristoffer

    Kristoffer Member

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    Is the Holy Spirit a person or a force in the orthodox faith?

    I appreciate if someone can explain a little around this belief :)
     
  2. lovemuffin

    lovemuffin τὸν ἄρτον τοῦ ἔρωτος

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    If you look at something like Gregory Palamas' distinction between the "essence" and "energies" of the Divine (see wikipedia) I think he would answer "both". Keeping in mind the relation between the Holy Spirit and God as the Undivided Trinity.

    Regarding the idea of being "person", Palamas' in his polemic to Barlaam, he speaks of the "all-powerful" nature of the Divine essence as consisting of it possessing "the faculties of knowing, of prescience, of creating, of embracing all things in itself..." (Triads, III, ii, 5) The notion of "essence" in this essence/energies distinction represents the transcendence of God, that God is, insofar as He is transcendent, wholly uncreated, having no dependence on or subsistence in anything else. And the notion is that this essence has "personal" characteristics, as in the quote. But the philosophical conundrum that Palamas wrote about in his distinction was in how an utterly transcendent God could have any traffic with contingent human beings. How the mystical experience of prayer in hesychasm could be an experience of union with God. He wants to explain how there can also be an experience of God in immanence. He writes:

    "For just as there is only one single essence without beginning, the essence of God, and the essences other than it are seen to be of a created nature, and come to be through this sole unoriginate essence... in the same way, there is only one single providential power without beginning, namely that of God..."
    Emphasizing the absolute transcendence of the Divine essence (he quotes Maximus Confessor: "God infinitely transcends these participable virtues"), he makes use of the sort-of paradox of the trinitarian indwelling between the persons of the Trinity to say:

    "But since God is entirely present in each of the divine energies, we name Him from each of them, although it is clear that He transcends all of them. For, given the multitude of divine energies, how could God subsist entirely in each without any division at all; how could each provide Him with a name and manifest Him entirely, if he did not transcend all these energies"
    I'm afraid my condensation of his longer arguments might be confusing, but I'd make a few points

    1) It's important not to over-anthropomorphize the orthodox concept of "person" with regard to God. The translation of hypostases in Greek into personae in Latin has somewhat different connotations, especially compared to modern English usage. I tried to write a bit about this question here, if you are interested: The Trinity in the Eastern Christian Tradition | ReligiousForums.com

    2) Because the church fathers emphasized the experiential and mystical union with God -- the transformation and divinization of human nature -- and because God is infinite and everywhere present, in many ways the theological conception of God, including the Holy Spirit, resembles a description of a "force", an energy, a power. We tend to presuppose, following the models of modern physics, that those words explicitly connote an impersonality, but that modern way of thinking doesn't really map well onto what Gregory is writing about.

    He is concerned more with balancing a theology that declares that God is beyond everything, even existence and non-existence, with the idea that there can be an actual experience of that same utterly transcendent God. So he draws this distinction between essence and energy, which is like a distinction between "Person" and "Force", but insists, in the same way that orthodoxy insists that there is a distinction between Father and Son and Spirit, without separation, that the very essence of God, the "personhood" if you will, is present in those energies.





     
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  3. Kristoffer

    Kristoffer Member

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    Many thx for very good answer! :) This was very helpful! ^^

    Now i wonder about another thing. Its not the meaning to insult anyone with this question, but Im really curious about the following question:
    - How near will you say that the orthodox belief are with panentheism? Its very welcome to come with different perspectives on this, and different understandings
     
  4. lovemuffin

    lovemuffin τὸν ἄρτον τοῦ ἔρωτος

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    Because panentheism is a fairly modern term, it might depend on exactly what it's taken to entail, but I do think that Orthodox theology is "panentheistic" and I've heard orthodox theologians use the term. The main point of contention would just be if the meaning of "all is in God" were taken to mean that there was no real distinction between Creator and Creation, which Orthodoxy would still insist on. And yet, the "all" which is distinct from the essence of God is still in God. "In him we live and move and have our being", as it is said.
     
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